Returning home from an exchange program always comes with some challenges, like reverse culture shock and missing host communities. Host families often go through a similar transition and may feel a sense of loss as their students depart. We understand that coping with the distress caused by this pandemic and the abrupt end to our 2020 programs has made these readjustments even more difficult for students, new alumni, and host families.
That’s why we adapted the existing content and delivery of our Pre-Return Orientations for Hosted Students and Re-Entry Orientations for Students returning to the U.S. These orientations will continue to encourage and guide students to reflect on and grow from their intercultural journeys, before and after they return, but they will now be facilitated online by local volunteers and national staff. And, we added wellness tips and dedicated time and virtual space to process stress and disappointment students may be experiencing, as well as new ways to connect virtually with AFSers.
National Pre-Return Orientation webinars for hosted students took place weekly through April.
For Host Families whose students have already departed, we developed similar resources. This included a webinar with guided reflection activities and a short interview with our Mental Health Consultant, in which we discuss ways to help host families process the sudden departure of their students and cope with continued uncertainty. We are also offering additional support and resources to Host Families whose students have not yet departed.
As these opportunities are meant only for AFS students, returnees/alumni, and host families, we will not share registration links publicly. Invitations to register to these local and national online events were sent from volunteers and/or staff to students and families.
More opportunities to continue intercultural learning online and connect virtually with AFSers around the world are in progress. We know fostering global citizenship and connections across cultures are more important than ever.